If the MLB owners and players union can come to an agreement, we will have baseball in 2020. Although that agreement is not a foregone conclusion, if it happens, National League baseball will look quite different this year. The roster for the San Francisco Giants will also have significant changes. One key factor is due to a condensed season, the Designated Hitter will be used in all games.
For baseball purists, this is blasphemy, as the DH takes a great deal of the strategy out of the game. Nevertheless, we will see the DH across the board this year, assuming we have a season. Let’s take a look at the top five DH options for the Giants, in 2020.
# 5 – Darin Ruf
Darin Ruf was a longshot to make the team, but with the expanded roster, he now has a better chance. Ruf has right-handed power, something the Giants can definitely use. He spent the past three seasons playing in Korea, where he hit 31, 33, and 22 home runs in those years. He also averaged over 116 RBI with an OPS over .900 every year.
Granted, the KBO is not the Major Leagues, but Ruf did play parts of five seasons in the NL, with the Philadelphia Phillies. His best year was in 2013 when he hit 14 homers in only 251 at-bats. His .806 OPS that year was higher than almost all the Giants players in 2019.
At the age of 33, with both MLB and international experience, Ruf could provide a jolt of energy to the Giants’ offense. He was off to a great start in spring training before the Covid-19 pandemic shuttered the game. In 28 at-bats, Ruf hit three home runs and his slash line was very impressive at .429 / .469 / 1.000. His OPS of 1.469 was leading the team this spring.
# 4 – Buster Posey
Injuries have played a role in Posey’s offensive decline, as has the grind of catching. However, he is now over a year removed from hip surgery and has gotten added time off this spring. In 2019, Posey only hit seven home runs and had 38 RBI, in 405 at-bats. His .688 OPS was well below the league average. If Posey has a resurgence offensively, that would be a huge lift for the Giants.
# 3 – Wilmer Flores
One of Farhan Zaidi’s big acquisitions this winter was the signing of veteran infielder Wilmer Flores to a two-year deal. Flores is an average fielder at best, but he is a proven hitter at the big league level. In 2019, Flores hit very well, with a line of .317 / .361 / .487.
Flores could become the Alex Dickerson of this season. A player who arrived in San Francisco without a lot of fanfare, but emerges as a major component of the Giants’ offense. His main issue last year and throughout his career has been injuries. He had nine home runs last season, in only 265 at-bats. Flores would give the Giants another solid right-handed bat in the lineup.
# 2 – Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval played both third and first base for the Giants last year, behind Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, respectively. He was also a very effective pinch hitter. Looking ahead to the 2020 season, Sandoval will likely be used in a similar role.
He flourished in 2019, with a line of .268 / .313 / .507. He blasted 14 home runs and had 41 RBI in only 272 at-bats. A fan favorite, the Panda hats were back in San Francisco. After an ill-fated tenure in Boston, Sandoval has shown great appreciation towards his legion of fans in San Francisco and that sentiment is returned whole-heartedly.
# 1 – Alex Dickerson
Alex Dickerson can hit. He proved that in 2019 and helped lead the Giants’ offense. However, Dickerson has never been able to stay healthy and last year was no exception. Having Dickerson fill the DH role the majority of the time is the best spot for him. He will hopefully avoid injury and he is a below-average defensive player, in any case.
In June, the Giants acquired Dickerson from the San Diego Padres in one of Farhan Zaidi’s under-the-radar transactions. He immediately paid dividends and energized the Giants’ offense. In only 174 at-bats, Dickerson hit .290 / .351 / .529. His OPS of .880 easily led the Giants. Only Mike Yastrzemski, with an .852 OPS was within 30 points of Dickerson.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed Dickerson’s season. He had six home runs and 28 RBI and was one of the bright spots in an otherwise tough year in San Francisco. Keeping Dickerson’s bat in the lineup should be one of Gabe Kapler’s top priorities.
These are the San Francisco Giants’ top DH candidates. Here’s to hoping the owners and players can come to an agreement and we will see some baseball this year.
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